LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Following an issued apology by the Louisville Metro Police Department Friday night after a homeless camp at Market and Hancock Streets was cleared by officers, community advocates are questioning the response by police.
LMPD Officer Beth Ruoff issued a statement Friday night, stating the camp was cleared due to a “miscommunication,” and officers returned with replacement tents, blankets, and warming items.
The original statement sent by LMPD can be read below:
“Today we had an incident that should not have occurred: A homeless encampment at Market and Hancock streets was cleared, displacing seven people living there. Upon recognizing the error, LMPD went back out with FEED Louisville and 502 Livestreamer Tara Bassett, in order to replace tents, tarps, warmth materials, along with moving personal items for those on site and those being temporarily housed elsewhere. We appreciate the assistance of community members helping us to restore what was lost. LMPD takes full responsibility for the miscommunication leading to these circumstances and we apologize for this error, which was ours, not that of the city’s Office for Resilience and Community Services or others providing homeless services. We are committed to building relationships with our city’s most vulnerable, and we are working on new Standard Operating Procedures to ensure these situations do not arise in the future.”
Donny Greene, co-founder of the non-profit Feed Louisville, replied to LMPD’s statement Saturday morning, saying the department lied about their response to the camp being cleared, and that the group is “not in partnership with LMPD.”
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Greene said in a Facebook post that nine tents and everyone’s belongings were destroyed or removed from Market and Hancock Streets last night.
The post said the orders came from LMPD’s Downtown Area Patrol division, claiming the incident as a direct retaliation for officers being called out for “civil and human rights violations, assaulting individuals and stealing from the houseless population downtown.”
“Only one persons belongings were saved, only because I arrived on the scene as the city and LMPD were finishing and got into a shouting match with the officer on the scene,” Greene said in the post.
He said the officer responded with a profanity, and that once he left the scene, he brought the homeless person into his car to warm up, to look at a third-degree burn on his hand, and to discuss where to move his belongings. He then began helping the person build a tent on the grass off of the sidewalk.
Greene was later told by two officers from LMPD’s mobile response unit that the person would be arrested if the tent was placed in that location. The two agreed to move him and his belongings to Jackson Street.
“I went over and began setting up the tent while the two officers loaded belongings into a police pickup and moved them to the new location. At one point one of the officers helps me get the tent upright,” Greene said in the post. “The officers left blankets and sterno for for this individual while others from Feed Louisville arrived. Then the officers left.”
Feed Louisville took the person to the emergency room to get his burn treated, while a member of the group sat in their vehicle to watch his belongings.
Greene went on to say that the other belongings were not returned or replaced by LMPD as initially stated by the department.
“Feed Louisville sees and interacts with police as does most outreach, it is one of the hazards of the work. Houseless people are criminalized by the city and LMPD and no good can come from “working with” your oppressors, period,” Greene said in the post.
Tara Bassett with the #502Livestreamers group discussed the incident last night during a livestream with Summer Dickerson, founder of Women of the Well Ministries. Bassett later released a statement saying that Metro Council members Jecorey Arthur and Bill Hollander asked members of the city to investigate the clearing of the homeless camp at Market and Hancock.
“This statement is LMPD’s acknowledgement and promised correction of the “miscommunication” that resulted in the destruction of the homes of several unsheltered citizens on the coldest night of winter so far,” Bassett said in a post.
When asked for clarification on Friday night incident and their statement, Ruoff said there was no further comment.